There is a lot of discussion going on the subject of Indian railways. As always, much of discussions on India are just about some reform/efficiency and all that. Much of the ideas have been known for a long time. You can’t run any enterprise where expenses are more than revenues. Period. This has been the case with Railways for a long time. Some committee is formed, some decisions are taken. The engine starts chugging again only to lose steam again.
This book by Ian Kerr has a couple of essays on historical impact of Indian railways from different perspectives. So there is an essay on how railways helped more people go to pilgrimage places, how the various rail lines were built given the adversity and so on. India was one country which had one of the largest railway system in the world but industrial development remained negligible. This itself is a paradox of sorts thanks to the policies of British who made railways just to serve themselves. Then there is the classic debating question – Whether railways integrated India as a nation or it actually impoverished India as the resources began to be shipped to Britain in much quicker time and speed. This also is debated by scholars in the book.
It also has a brief interview of Mahatma Gandhi on why he thought railways to be more of a problem than a gain. He belonged to the second came and just thought railways was mainly built for British interests. There is Karl Marx too debating role of railways in India.
A useful book to learn a thing or two about Indian railways.